With gas prices up, diesel cars attract buyers

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With gas prices up, diesel cars attract buyers


With rising oil prices, diesel vehicles are getting more popular in Korea after years of car lovers giving them a pass.

“Are diesel models popular among Korean consumers? It is questionable,” Toyota Korea CEO Hisao Nakabayashi once said.

Until last year, Japanese brands, including Nissan, Honda and Subaru, didn’t offer diesel models in Korea. But Infiniti, a luxury brand of Nissan, recently launched a diesel vehicle for the first time.

Nissan Korea has been promoting the Infiniti FX30d sport utility vehicle in a series of events that ended Sunday. It is the first diesel Infiniti in Asia.

Nissan Korea CEO Naito Kenji said the launch of Infiniti FX30d reflects “the growing popularity of diesel cars in the country.”

“I’m confident about the FX30d in comparison to German counterparts like BMW X5 3.0d and Mercedes-Benz ML300 CDI,” he said.

The rising price of gasoline has piqued customers’ interest in diesel cars. As international crude oil continues to surge on the worsening situation in the Middle East, gasoline prices at the pump in Korea have become burdening.

According to the National Oil Corp. the average gasoline price at gas pumps across the country was 2,040.22 won ($1.80) yesterday, up 1.10 won from the previous day while Seoul averaged 2,114.75 won up 1.18 won.

Last year, diesel models made up 35 percent of all car imports, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.

The seven most popular imported cars last month were diesel models.

In the past, Japanese brands promoted hybrid vehicles as fuel-efficient alternatives to gasoline models.

Now, both Japanese and American automakers are offering diesel models.

In January, Ford introduced the Explorer 2.0 EcoBoost SUV with a highly fuel-efficient engine.

It will also launch a diesel version of the Taurus full-size sedan and the Focus diesel compact later this year.

Chrysler has introduced the 300C luxury diesel sedan, which is 7 percent more fuel efficient than the previous version, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland SUV.

BMW introduced the 3-Series 320d sedan on Feb. 23, and within a week it sold 197 units, which made it the sixth best-selling imported car in the country.

Volkswagen introduced the Scirocco R-Line diesel coupe earlier this year. It will add the Tiguan small diesel SUV next month.

Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, which have focused on gasoline vehicles in the past, are now trying to market more diesel cars.

The Accent subcompact diesel sedan has fuel efficiency of 23.5 kilometers (14.6 miles) per liter.

Hyundai introduced the i40 station wagon in October, and 64.3 percent of i40 sedans sold last year were diesel models.

Hyundai added the i40 Saloon sedan in January. Hyundai and Kia introduced diesel model versions of the Verna subcompact, Avante compact and Sonata midsize sedans in 2005. But their ride quality was poor and they were noisy.

By Moon Byung-joo [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]

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